December 2013 Newsletter (vol.24)   >>   The Benefits of Wetting Agents

 

 

Do you ever have plants that are hard to rewet after drying out? Usually this occurs when plants stay in the soilless mix and pot for an extended period of time. Most soilless mixes come with a wetting agent in them, which helps to improve the initial wetting ability, and have been used since the 1960’s. Once the growing medium is in use, it should perform satisfactorily for 8 to 10 weeks. The effectiveness can diminish due to the chemical composition, over time the influence of the greenhouse environment, microbe interaction at the root zone, type of crop grown and irrigation environment can all play factors. You may be aware that wetting agents help mixes moisten more uniformly but did you know that there are other benefits?

 

Wetting agents help improve water, irrigation and fertilizer efficiency. As mentioned, soilless mixes have a starting wetting agent (surfactant) which helps the mix to dampen quickly and uniformly when you first use it. During the growing process, just like fertilizer, it may be necessary for you to add an additional wetting agent to keep the uniform movement and distribution of water through the root zone. This prevents the soilless mix from becoming hydrophobic and repelling water. When water runs off it takes fertilizer with it and with the rising cost of fertilizer, it is important to get the most out of the fertilizer and reduce waste. When you add the wetting agent to the mix you then can reduce the amount of irrigation needed since you are allowing the plant to have more usable water than without the wetting agent. Not only are you reducing the amount of fertilizer and water being used, you are also reducing labor hours which in turn saves you, the grower, money.

 

Disease management and prevention are also benefits of using a surfactant. Many diseases find mobility in water and others grow because of overly moist conditions. When you over water you are providing pathogens a place to breed, survive and spread. When you use fungicides, using water as the way to apply them, it is important that these get to the root zone and are taken up by the plant evenly. If water can be distributed evenly, then so can the fungicides, and your chances of fighting the disease are greater. Wetting agents allow for water, fertilizer, and fungicides to be absorbed evenly but it can also prevent over saturation which cause disease to take hold. It also gives the proper air to water ratio in the root zone, which reduces plant stress, and leads to healthier, stronger plants that are more disease resistant.

 

If a retail atmosphere is where you profit, then it is important to give your customers a healthy looking plant that is not over watered or wilting. During the busy spring season it may be hard to prevent this from happening and having enough staff to water and assist the customers is always a challenge. Wetting agents are a great tool to prevent the stresses of retail without affecting the plants. They reduce the watering and labor needs of the plants and makes sure the plants will have wetting ability if they are allowed to dry out. It has been said that between 2% and 10% of plants are lost during the retail environment due to the poor conditions and care. If you can reduce the amount of plants lost in the retail environment, you will have more plants available for sale, which turns into more revenue.

 

Sustainability and conservation are important aspects of a successful business in the horticulture industry. Wetting agents are helpful in water conservation and sustainability. You are not only using less water but also reducing run-off, improving fertilizer efficiency and growing quality plants. The results of using wetting agents are helping the environment and sustaining the horticulture industry.

 

The costs of wetting agents are a fraction of a penny per pot and can be added during fertilizing or drenching. This is a great way to give your potted plants the benefit of having water ready for them when the plant needs it. The best time to add a surfactant to your growing plants is when the 8 to 10 week interval is up and the initial surfactant that was in the soilless medium has diminished. Another great time to add additional wetting agents is right before you ship the product out of your greenhouse into a retail setting or before moving plants into your own retail environment. The cost of the wetting agents will pay for itself in the long run and they are easy to apply with no extra steps involved.

 

Wetting agents are extremely beneficial and a “must have” in greenhouse growing facilities. They help maximize the success of plant production and minimize the wetting ability problems in your soilless mediums. You really cannot go wrong with incorporating wetting agents into your growing program. Call your Hummert sale representative today to get started!

 

Sources

 

Benefits of wetting agent applications during the crop production cycle: http://www.greenhousemag.com/premier-tech-horticulture-benefits-wetting-agent-applications.aspx


Water: Little-Known Benefits of Wetting Agents: http://www.ballpublishing.com/growertalks/ViewArticle.aspx?articleid=16538


Understanding Media Surfactants: http://s3.amazonaws.com/aquatrols/20091214131635.pdf